A reader writes:
I found myself shocked by several things this morning when I read Chris' post on detainee transfer to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. First was the reference to "heartland". "Heart of America" and "Heartland" have been regularly used by Kansas Citians to describe their metropolitan area. I was surprised that Chris, being from Tonganoxie, was unaware of that. Having grown up in the Kansas City area, I have a difficult time believing that when Parkinson says "Heartland" that he is speaking in GOP code of "real America" vs. the other America. Clearly Governor Parkinson should have chosen his language much more carefully because he used insider language, but it sounds unintentional to me.
He is, however, correct that Kansas has a national image problem. Kansas City has long been known as one of the best kept secrets in the country, and a wonderfully cosmopolitan city, but half of the city lies in a state in which the state school board has gone back and forth about whether or not to allow evolution to be taught in public schools. Having lived across the country in adulthood, Kansas is mostly an unknown commodity known for the Wizard of Oz, Cowboys and Indians, for the bestseller "What's the Matter with Kansas" and for the state school board's decisions.
If the "Heartland" comment had been in a Tongie town-hall meeting and not a national press release, I think the reader would have a stronger point. I don't think Parkinson was deliberately using "Real America" code, but invoking state loyalties on issues of national security - he admits Gitmo harms the US, after all - just sounds unseemly.
I can understand why Parkinson - whose foremost responsibility is to his state - wants to play it safe on the detainee issue. Perhaps he should. And to his credit, he hasn't used the fearful rhetoric of his Republican counterparts. But I don't understand how crying NIMBY puts Kansas in a positive light, or how taking on detainees would be a stigma. To me, and many Kansans, it would be a point of pride, and a key role in the war on terrorism. Leavenworth has been a prison town for 150 years, and its four major prisons have held some of the country's worst criminals (including Islamic terrorists convicted of killing Americans). The 705 MP Battalion stationed at Fort Leavenworth is the Army's elite detention unit. So to say that Leavenworth can't handle these detainees strikes me as condescending.